Brexit referendum result turned on its head

The Brexit referendum result would be reversed if rerun today.

Has There Been a Shift in Support for Brexit?

Posted on 8 February 2019 by John Curtice

Unsurprisingly, protagonists on all sides in the Brexit debate are keen to claim that their views reflect the will of a majority of voters. After all, the decision to leave the EU was made by the public in the first place, so being able to argue that what should happen now is backed by voters is a potentially valuable currency in the political debate. Thus, the Prime Minister, for example, insists that in pursuing Brexit she is delivering ‘the Brexit people voted for‘, a vote that, she argues, should not be questioned by asking voters their view a second time. Opponents of Brexit, in contrast, often take the view that voters were misinformed – even misled –  during the EU referendum, and now that they are more aware of the supposed downsides of leaving the EU they should be given the chance to register their second thoughts in a second ballot.

The intensity of this argument reflects, in part at least, the narrowness of the outcome of the referendum in June 2016. Against the backdrop of a 52% vote for Leave and 48% for Remain, not many voters would have to change their minds for the balance of opinion to be tilted in the opposite direction. So, with March 29 – the date when the UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU –  rapidly approaching, where does the balance of opinion now lie on the principle of leaving the EU?

Regular users of our site will be aware that polls that have asked people how they would vote in another EU referendum have for some time been pointing to a small lead for Remain. For much of last year our poll of polls, a running average of the last half dozen readings of second referendum vote intentions, put Remain on 52% and Leave 48%, the mirror image of the outcome in 2016. However, given all the potential pitfalls of polling, such a lead was too narrow for anyone to be sure what the outcome would be if a second ballot were to be held.

In recent months, though, the Remain lead has grown somewhat in our poll of polls. By the beginning of October, it had crept up to Remain 53%, Leave 47%. Now, since the turn of the year it has increased further to Remain 54%, Leave 46%. This movement has also been replicated in the pattern of responses to the question that YouGov regularly ask, ‘In hindsight, do you think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the EU?’. Until the 2017 general election typically more people said that the decision to leave the EU was right than stated it was wrong. Since then, however, the oppose has been the case. Even so, by the spring of 2018, on average the proportion who said that the decision was wrong (45%) was still only three points higher than the proportion who said it was right (42%). However, in the readings that YouGov has taken in the last three months, that lead has grown on average to as much as eight points, with as many as 48% saying the decision was wrong, and only 40% that it was right.

Three-quarters of newly eligible voters would back remain in second poll

Inigo Alexander 9 Mar 2019

Some 87% of people who were too young to cast a ballot in the 2016 Brexit referendum but have since reached voting age would “definitely” take part if a second public vote were called, according to a new poll. And of the estimated 2 million new young voters, 74% would back remain.

Separately, constituency-by-constituency analysis by YouGov of more than 25,000 voters shows that in only two out of 632 constituencies do a majority of voters want their MP to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Commenting, Peter Kellner, a past president of YouGov, stated: “The coalition that produced a narrow majority for Brexit three years ago is falling apart. It brought together traditionalists in Conservative Britain who saw the EU as a threat to British values and sovereignty, with families in Labour’s heartlands who felt that ‘Brussels’ threatened their living standards and their children’s job prospects.

“The prime minister’s plan is unpopular essentially because few people in either group think it tackles the threat they face. The fact that only two constituencies in the entire country – not including her own – want their MP to support her deal shows just how risky it would be for the prime minister to force this deal on the people now.”

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